Disruptive Technologies Don’t Have To Disrupt Safety

Disruptive Technologies Don’t Have To Disrupt Safety  

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A few months ago, I wrote about the then brand-spanking-new Bird scooters that had recently hit the streets of Santa Monica. Actually, I gave the Bird the bird. But I wasn’t aiming to hate on their last-mile revolution. Rather, I was attempting to shine a light on some serious safety issues, hoping to make my own little dent of impact before the flock migrated.

            Well, migrate it has! Bird scooters are now scattered across the U.S., having landed in 22 cities and counting. Lime scooters, along with other lesser known brands, have popped up as well – providing instantaneous and fierce competition in this space. Bird in particular has seen a meteoric rise: all you need to know is that a company that didn’t exist this time last year is now worth $2 billion. Part of the company’s success lies in its rule-breaker mentality, where scooters drop by the hundreds in unsuspecting cities and, because there is tremendous demand for a transportation vehicle that is cheap, accessible, and largely effortless (not to mention fun!), demand surges almost instantly. Who cares about licenses and regulations when a real service is being provided?

            Lime, by the way, is more than nipping at Bird’s heels – it has outpaced Bird in its 2018 propagation, largely because of its pre-existing bike share program. And in a move that predicts imminent dominance, Lime paired with Uber to make access via its app even easier. There isn’t only one disruptor in this emerging marketplace, there are many and some have deep resources.

            Cities are taking individual approaches to e-scooter regulations. Some are going directly after the companies by limiting the numbers that can be deposited on streets or issuing permitting violations. Others are targeting the riders who don’t follow stated rules. E-scooter access is evolving more quickly than the regulations designed to curb (literally) use, but when is the opposite ever the case these days?

            This post is my open letter to anyone involved in an e-scooter company, whether you are on the tech development side or the marketing side or whether you sit at the very top and this was your genius idea (because it is, in fact, a genius idea). Please invite me in to share some thoughts about your massive under-18 user base suddenly flying around towns almost always helmetless and often two-to-a-scooter. Let me help you to understand how tweens and teens make decisions and why, inevitably, they will break the honor code style rules that you have established – like wearing helmets and riding one-at-a-time and the biggest one of all which is that you need to be 18 and have a license. Let’s message these kids before they take to the streets at 15mph (at least, though it looks more like 25 to me), weaving in and out of lanes and then up onto sidewalks because they literally don’t know the rules of the road. Why would they? Many have never taken driver’s ed. Let’s come up with an awesome solution to educate them about why they shouldn’t be whizzing around on your hardware, so that we don’t have to talk about the consequences to them or the poor drivers who hit them inadvertently. Let’s talk helmets (I have a version 2.0 plan for this, Bird and Lime, and it’s even lice-free!). Let’s talk about anything you want to talk about so that the new status quo can become safer for everyone.

            In my line of work, my job is to take something decidedly uncool – going through puberty – and make it tolerable, even fun at times. Delaying a ride on a motorized scooter until the legally compliant age of 18 and then doing it with a helmet on your head and no one on your back feels decidedly uncool. Together, we can change that narrative, and then you can really call yourselves disruptors.